Monday, December 20, 2010

Products that Perk Up the Holidays

Each year, millions of television viewers eagerly anticipate Oprah’s “Favorite Things,” Ellen’s “12 Days of Giveaways,” and Rachael Ray’s “Faves.”

How do these busy hosts learn about the year’s hottest new gadgets and gizmos? As you know, often from PR pros! Unlike paid television product placements, audience giveaways are a popular way to build excitement for products and brands, obtain valuable third-party endorsements and boost sales and exposure for companies. Here are some tips from my experiences in coordinating and preparing for TV audience giveaways:
  • Recon, Research and Report – Before you begin a pitch, thoroughly research the shows you are targeting and the giveaway segments they offer. Identify the right product placement coordinator or producer and begin a conversation by asking lots of questions to obtain details about their giveaway process.

  • Be Prepared – While coordinating a past giveaway of the Eureka Envirovac vacuum cleaner for “Ellen’s Earth Day” special, not only were more than 400 vacuums shipped to the studio in a week’s time, but a Eureka representative also was sent to California to oversee the display that was created. Make sure that a large quantity giveaway on very short notice would be possible for your client. Most shows require a large product donation, usually between 100 or 450 of whatever you want to give away. Many also allow you to visit the set to arrange your own display, but will need you to travel there on very short notice. Still others require product be sent to invididual audience members after the show if your product is too large to carry.

  • Secure a Spot – Aside from the product’s performance, giving producers a 100 percent product commitment in your pitch tends to put it ahead of the pack when it comes to selecting giveaway items. Negotiations with producers also are common, especially when it comes to incorporating product benefits and features on-air. Don’t be afraid to secure the best positioning or prominent product points – after all, you and your client know the product best.

  • Piggyback your Pitch – Piggybacking off your success in landing a placements in Every Day with Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart Living or O, the Oprah Magazine is a natural way to propose a giveaway to their corresponding shows. During a past holiday season, I coordinated a giveaway for a Snow Joe snow thrower on the “Rachael Ray” show in conjunction with the product’s appearance in the December magazine issue.

When the time is right and you have the perfect product to pitch, it all comes down to researching the right opportunity, preparing in advance and managing the process. Once you hear the roar of cheers and applause on TV as your product is rolled out, you’ll know that all of the preparation was well worth the effort.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Blank Slate: Considerations for a Strong Start

In my last post I talked about the who, what, when, where and why of PR writing. Once those questions have been answered, you should have a pretty good idea of how best to approach your writing project. Ideally, you may even have a lead and/or headline in mind. To put yourself in an even better position for a smooth writing process, consider the following:
  • Is there inherent news or do you need to create news? If the latter, consider gathering primary or secondary research to help substantiate your news. Media love statistics and numbers can help get your news noticed.

  • Will a straight-forward commercial approach work? To avoid turning off media with an overly commercial pitch, try tying your message to a current event or relevant trend and support it with compelling tips or insight that media will want to share with their audience.

  • Will a one-size-fits-all approach suffice? Or, are you better off customizing your writing and approach for different audiences?

Finally, don’t be afraid to have a little fun! To make your writing more memorable, look for opportunities to throw in some creative flair in the form of alliteration, pop culture references, famous sayings, catch phrases or quotes, even song lyrics – anything that might jump off the page and stick in the minds of the reader.

Starting anything from scratch is an adventure, and PR writing is no exception. But, over the years, I have found that just a few minutes of strategic forethought can save considerable time and money – not to mention one’s sanity – and make the writing process easier, more enjoyable and more effective. Good luck and happy writing!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action! Tips for a “Rockin’” Satellite Media Tour

Satellite Media Tours (SMTs) are a popular public relations tool for reaching broadcast media – and for good reason. A well-executed SMT can provide wide exposure for a client in a relatively short period of time. An SMT typically involves offering a celebrity, expert or company spokesperson for remote one-on-one interviews with television stations. The back-to-back interviews are conducted via satellite.

I recently helped coordinate an SMT for one of our home industry clients – starting with the initial concept and taking it through to successful completion. Here are a few things I learned along the way to make the most of an SMT:
  • Think Outside the Studio: Most SMTs are shot on a nondescript studio set – but who says that has to be the case? If the subject matter lends itself to a more interesting location, go for it! For our client Trex®, which manufactures wood-alternative decking and railing, we broadcasted live from a beautiful outdoor deck made of Trex materials – enabling us to showcase our client’s product in a more natural and interesting setting.
  • Switch the Pitch: What interests the media can vary from week to week. When our initial pitch to media wasn’t generating the response we wanted, we tried a few different angles until we found the one that created a high level of interest. Ask colleagues who aren’t so closely entrenched for ideas, and don’t overlook the expertise of your spokesperson, who may have an interesting perspective.
  • Pitch the Person, Not the Product: The key to a successful SMT is to remember that you are pitching a person – not a product. Play up the aspects of your spokesperson that make him or her unique. Is it his or her experience? Quirky sense of humor? Style? Our Trex spokesperson was a decking expert – who also played in a rock band. We were able to position his “rock n’ roll” approach to outdoor deck planning for a more quirky story.
  • Keep it Simple: Simplify key messages so your spokesperson can put them in his or her own words and incorporate them into a variety of answers – no matter what question is asked. Complicated key messages will make your spokesperson sound robotic and likely lead to shortened interviews.
  • Caffeinate: Conducting 5, 10 or even 15 interviews in a row can get repetitious for even the best spokesperson, and early morning start times don’t make it any easier. Keep your spokesperson fresh by scheduling breaks and offering plenty of coffee and encouragement!